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 Photo courtesy of Amy Kosta, St. Louis LIFE Runners chapter leader

ST. LOUIS (LifeSiteNews) — A pro-life group is only more committed to working to protect the preborn after a small pack of pro-abortion agitators attempted to disrupt their march in St. Louis, Missouri on April 29.

Brian Westbrook, executive director of Coalition Life, told LifeSiteNews on Tuesday that the disturbance took place during his organization’s planned March on the Arch pro-life protest.

Westbrook said the event, which was sponsored by numerous pro-life groups including Students for Life of America and Life Runners, was attended by at least 200 advocates for the unborn, although some members of the team estimated that roughly 400 actually participated. The march began at the city’s Aloe Plaza at the St. Louis Union Station and concluded at the iconic Gateway Arch.

Shortly after the event kicked off, however, march participants, including families with young children, were subjected to insults and attempted disruptions from a band of about 15-20 leftist activists.

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“As we got onto the streets, it was about a mile march from Union Station downtown, and there [were] a few people that started making some noise,” Westbrook said. “The largest disruption was the simplest disruption, which is bicycles turned horizontally.”

“They run up to the front of the march and they throw four or five bicycles horizontally. That makes a bit of a fuss,” he said, adding that pro-lifers were forced to pick their path around the makeshift blockade.

“It got tense at times, but our pro-life marchers continued forward courageously,” march participant Dan Hinrichs told LifeSite on Wednesday.

Westbrook told LifeSite the counter-protesters were members of a local group called ResistSTL. According to the group’s Facebook page, ResistSTL is a self-identified “collective of queer and trans people and allies with shared values of anti-racism, intersectional, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and abolition.” Social media posts indicate the group advocates strenuously for boilerplate far-left agenda items ranging from support for Palestine against Israel to the promotion of abortion and mutilating transgender interventions.

And this wasn’t ResistSTL’s first encounter with Coalition Life. Last summer, they posed as volunteers for the group’s fundraiser in order to disrupt the event with vulgar displays and crude language.

An April 29 Facebook post by the group said they showed up to the march held by “our old friends” Coalition Life to make it “extra special for them.” The message celebrating their attempted disturbance of the event also called for “BODILY AUTONOMY NOT CHRISTIAN THEOCRACY,” as well as “ABORTIONS AND TRANSITIONS FOREVER!!!”

RELATED: Pro-abortion students throw eggs at pro-lifers hosting campus event on horrors of abortion

According to Westbrook, the efforts by the group to disrupt the event increased midway through the march.
“About halfway through the march, they start really ramping up their obnoxious, loud noises, and they brought a megaphone, and they’re shouting at us,” he said.

However, pro-lifers weren’t without their own means to drown out the counter-protesters.

Organizers of the march had “just happened to pass out cowbells” to participants without knowing that they would be confronted with the abortion activists, Westbrook said. Accordingly, marchers began “ringing these cowbells as loud as they possibly could” in response to the noisy disruptions of the activists.

According to Westbrook, the counter-protesters were mostly in their teens and 20s and many wore masks. Some had their faces painted and wore costumes. They also shouted insults, including accusing pro-life advocates of being “fascists,” a term that also features prominently on the group’s Facebook page. One of the left-wing activists spat bright red liquid evidently meant to look like blood out of his mouth, Westbrook recounted.

“From my perspective, frankly, I mean it made the whole darn thing more exciting,” Westbrook joked. He said that amid the drama it was “actually kind of humorous” when some of the activists crashed their bikes and were forced to untangle the pedals and wheels while the pro-lifers walked around them.

He said that while some of the young children whose families participated in the march were disturbed and upset by the counter-protesters’ actions, the “obnoxious” displays of the pro-abortion advocates simply helped make the marchers stronger in their mission to protect the most vulnerable.

“They’re never going to sway our opinion. In fact, they’re only making us more committed to our cause,” the pro-life leader said.

Hinrichs, who said he has been involved in the pro-life space for 25 years, told LifeSite “[i]t’s important that we continue our efforts to save lives … now more than ever. We won’t be silenced.”

Westbrook encouraged other pro-life groups to think ahead about potential counter-protests and particularly encouraged involvement by men’s groups like the Knights of Columbus. He also hinted at some increased security measures for future events that could see agitators hit with major financial penalties.

Finally, Westbrook offered a challenge to the ResistSTL members: Elect their best spokesperson to debate the matter in an open forum rather than attempting merely to disrupt and drown out opposing viewpoints.

“If they want to act like adults, if they want to talk about these adult, important issues, I would challenge them to a formal debate on the topic of abortion,” Westbrook said. “We’ll let the people decide.”

“If they really want to sway our opinion, by golly, let’s have a debate,” he said. “Let’s talk about what’s going on.”